Farriery may be an ancient art, but the techniques employed today are far from old and primeval. Shoeing horses is not all today’s Farrier must know about as can be seen by the following list of tasks and duties that I may be required to do in any one day:
- discuss the type of horseshoe required with the horse's owner or trainer
- observe the horse's legs and check the size and shape of the hooves
- remove worn or faulty shoes
- check the hooves for problems such as bruising or infections
- clean, trim and measure the hooves
- select and cut the metal, and select suitable nails
- heat shoes in a forge, shape them on anvils and hammer them to size
- nail the shoes to the hooves
- tidy the hooves using rasps (files)
- be involved in correcting the horse's legs or stance such as rectifying bent legs or limb deformation in foals
The daily care of the hoof falls to the owner, who should pick out each hoof every day, removing rocks, dirt and other foreign matter that will otherwise collect and create foot problems. Every six week, whether your horse wears shoes or not, its hooves will need to be trimmed.
Most horses need shoeing, which protects the walls of their hooves and their toes. Depending on the work the horse does, the shoes can protect the muscles, bones and tendons of the legs from injury. Improper shoeing or remaining unshod when shoes are needed can make your horse permanently lame.
Applying a shoe to a hoof is now equally about enhancing the horse's natural athleticism, through using the latest advances in materials and technique, as well as simply protecting its foot from harm.
When working with a horse for the first time there is a lot of thought that goes on before the shoe meets the hoof. Firstly dressing and shaping the hoof before working out exactly what sort of shoe is required to match the horse's gait.
Talking with the owner/trainer about the horse's running style and watching it run myself helps with then choosing a shoe to match the size of the horse, what the horse will be running on, how the trainer wants it to run and whether the horse has had any foot problems in the past. All of these factors are then taken into account as if you ignore any of these matters and fit the wrong type of shoe, the horse won't run well."
Then you tack the shoe into place very carefully, because a misplaced nail can make a horse lame. The shoe is then shaped with a file to get a perfect fit. Horse hooves have a natural 10mm thick casing that protects the delicate flesh inside the hoof. Despite this protection, injuries can occur and restrict a horse's performance.
If a horse is not going right you can sometimes fix that with a change of shoes but there can also be some other reasons like a stone bruise or some sort of injury on the foot that is only visible once the shoes are off. If concussion is causing the animal problems, then we can fit different shoes to help reduce the jarring.
Like any athlete, these horses can't run without shoes that suit them. You owe it to the people you work for and the animals themselves to give the best advice and guidance on what shoes to use.
Why is it important to shoe your horse regularly every five to seven weeks?
- Regular shoeing done to a high standard is the best way of maintaining your horse’s feet and legs in optimum condition. Prevention is always better than cure.
- A shod foot will rapidly grow at the toe and less at the heel causing the pastern angle to change. This places disproportionate pressures on the heel of the hoof.
- If the shoes are left on too long, the hoof will eventually out grow the shoe at the quarters and heel. This is a prime cause of corns, quarter cracks and weak heels.
- Irregular shoeing will also contribute to:
- Hook cracks - Thrush - Seedy Toe - poor horse performance - gait problems
Regular shoeing for most horses will result in:
Stronger feet - healthier feet - less cracks and seedy toe - a more athletic horse.
Horseshoes must be uniquely fitted to each animal which means farrier's learn how to take a horseshoe and shape it to suit, using either cold shoeing, where the shoes are beaten into shape while the metal is cold, or hot shoeing, where the shoes are worked in a forge. Improperly fitted shoes can severely injure a horse, and as a result it is very important to find a qualified, skilled farrier to shoe your horses making sure they will then have healthy hooves that are:
- hard, solid soles
- soft, flexible frog bands
- a triangular center
- outer hoof wall at least double the width of white line
- white line should bond with no deep cracks between the connecting sole
Properly balanced equine hooves through angles
Hoof balance is achieved through hoof angles which are may be measured via a hoof Gage that measures the junction of the foot's surface and hoof wall. It used to be considered normal by farriers and vets alike to have front foot leg angles of 45 to 50 degrees, Very recently, however, this method of defining a norm has come under close scrutiny by those who realise that individual conformation was taken into consideration.
What makes a proper hoof angle is the alignment of one set of imaginary streaks -one that begins at the surface of the heel and one that runs down the surface of the frontal hoof with one that is a line running through the last three bones, which are usually referred to as the pastern, short pastern and coffin bone .If the hoof is in proper alignment, the horse will most likely not suffer from lameness.
When the horse is shod, it is important to attain proper hoof angulations, thus, when the farrier works on the horses hoof, he or she will most likely trim the foot at such an angle that the wall of the hoof and pastern are parallel. To this end the farrier will have the horse stand on a hard and level surface and take a good look from the front to display the current state of the hoof-pastern axis. .If the hoof angle is not parallel, the farrier may use terms such as low (the pastern angle is more than the hoof wall angle) or high (the angle of the pastern is lower than the hoof wall) hoof angles.
Many a time the farrier will be able correct the hoof angle, such as it would be the case if the toe is too short or long or the heel is too high or low .as a matter of fact, quite often a low hoof angle avoided by proper trimming. Low hoof angles have been linked to poor circulation in the heel, in part because the toe grows longer than it should and therefore the pastern moves to such an extent that the coffin joint becomes extended and strain on the flexor tendon increases. Add to this the friction created in the navicular bursa the resultant low circulation is no surprise .The more incorrect the hoof angle is the worse the consequences to the foot are overall.
Corrective measures for toes that have been permitted to grow too long is to "back up " the toe by using a rasp on the dorsal hoof wall so as to more accurately bring it into alignment with the pastern. For relatively new cases, this will usually fix the issue .If the problem is an under run heel, you will be able to extend the heels of the shoe so as to mimic the proper distance. Thus, if you cannot "back up" the toe, you will most likely have to look into elevating the hoof. Your farrier will be able to discuss this issue with you in detail.
Corrective measures for high hooves are indicated to decrease the strain put on the ligaments caused by coffin joint flexion and heel pressure, to do so the farrier will most likely trim the foot in a tapered style from the frog to the heel. Wedges may be employed if there is too much tension build-up.